Housebuilder CEO who thrived as apprentice says they are vital for post-lockdown success

The chief executive of a major housebuilding group, who swapped hotel pot washing for a construction apprenticeship kick-starting nearly 40 years in the industry, says apprentices are vital post-lockdown.

Greg Fitzgerald, CEO of Vistry Group, began a four-year estimator apprenticeship at a construction firm in 1982 and said the knowledge he gained set him up for a long-term career in housebuilding.

Greg, who fully supports National Apprenticeship Week, said he was delighted the national focus has returned to apprenticeships in recent years and that apprentices were vital to the post-lockdown economy.

He said: “Apprenticeships will play a massive part post-lockdown because although I think the economy will bounce back strongly, it’s young people and apprentices who can really make a difference to workplaces, bringing extra energy and longevity. We are selling, buying land and building well throughout the lockdown and we see apprentices having a massive part to play in our sector – there should be plenty of opportunities for them.

“I’m incredibly excited by the size Vistry is now, the diverse nature of what we do, in terms of houses, apartments and our geographical spread and I’m absolutely delighted that our 23 business units will continue to go forward with both office and trade-based apprentices out on site. We can offer a lot to apprentices and attract more to join us.

“Bringing in apprentices adds to the environment and culture of an organisation and staff can be inspired by them as well as inspire. It adds to the zest and energy of a business and my experience is that some of the best people we’ve got in Vistry have come from the apprenticeship route.

“National Apprenticeship Week is brilliant. It flies the flag and highlights that apprentices are absolutely vital for this country going forward, post-lockdown, whether in housebuilding or other sectors. It’s a great way to finish your academic life going into working life and it’s a route I would thoroughly recommend.”

Greg had been working at a Dartmouth hotel for a year when, aged 17, he heard the sous chef’s brother-in-law was looking for an estimator apprentice at Midas Construction. Greg was successful at interview and studied one day a week at South Devon College, through the Youth Training Scheme, as well as attending a weekly evening study session.

He spent two years on site with the construction business and two years in different departments, mainly estimating, but working in finance, surveying and construction. He received awards at college for his performance and finished his apprenticeship with a Chartered Institute of Building Certificate of Excellence Award.

Greg added: “The moment I started my apprenticeship, I thought ‘I’ve got to make this work’. I
knew nothing about building or the industry but as soon as I got there, perhaps because of the way I was managed, I loved the office and estimating and got as stuck in as I could. I was always learning and learnt everything about estimating and thoroughly enjoyed my two years out on different sites. I absolutely knew this was for me and I knew that going down the apprenticeship route was the perfect way to get into the industry.

“Apprenticeships are right for certain people, they’re not better or worse than other routes, but they do offer terrific experience and an insight to the work while studying, you’re paid while you’re learning and it’s very disciplined. I’m delighted that the importance of apprenticeships is back up where it used to be and there are site and office-based apprenticeships for those hard-workers
who want to join our fantastic industry.”

For more information about Vistry Group, visit www.vistrygroup.co.uk.